The Palestinian Authority (PA) is the body which governs and administers Palestinian areas in the West Bank. It was established as a result of the 1993 Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO, and came into being in 1994, overseeing Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, since the 2007 Hamas takeover, the PA does not govern the Gaza Strip. The PA President effectively serves as the representative of the Palestinian people in the international community, and represents the Palestinians in negotiations with the State of Israel.
Long-time PLO chairman and Fatah leader Yasir Arafat was the first Rais or President of the Palestinian Authority until his death in 2004. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas, another long-time PLO and Fatah official who is widely known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are bitter rivals. There have been efforts since 2007 to reconcile the two groups, but aside from dramatic announcements (most recently in April 2014), such reconciliation agreements have had little impact and have been of short duration.
According to the Oslo Accords, the PA was intended to be an interim structure that would be succeeded by an independent, democratically elected Palestinian government following a final peace agreement with Israel.
Over the years, the Israeli government and public have grown increasingly critical of the Palestinian Authority for not preparing the Palestinian public for the concessions that will be required in a peace agreement with Israel, for doing little-to-nothing to control terrorist organizations during the Second Intifada, and for tolerating the spreading of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda.